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The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, Romance | 3 September 1937 (USA)
An Englishman on a Ruritarian holiday must impersonate the king when the rightful monarch, a distant cousin, is drugged and kidnapped.

Directors:

John Cromwell, W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Writers:

Anthony Hope (celebrated novel), John L. Balderston (screen play) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Ronald Colman ... Major Rudolf Rassendyll / The Prisoner of Zenda
Madeleine Carroll ... Princess Flavia
C. Aubrey Smith ... Colonel Zapt
Raymond Massey ... Black Michael
Mary Astor ... Antoinette de Mauban
David Niven ... Fritz von Tarlenheim
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Rupert of Hentzau
Montagu Love ... Detchard
Philip Sleeman Philip Sleeman ... Albert von Lauengram
Eleanor Wesselhoeft Eleanor Wesselhoeft ... Frau Holf - Cook
Florence Roberts ... Duenna (scenes deleted)
Torben Meyer ... Max - Butler
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Arthur Byron ... (scenes deleted)
Francis Ford ... (scenes deleted)
Margaret Tallichet ... (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

This is a classic swashbuckler. Rudolph Rassendyll, Rudolf V's identical distant cousin, is asked to risk his life and impersonate the would-be king when his relative is kidnapped before his impending coronation. If Rudolf V isn't present at the ceremony, he will forfeit the crown to his older half-brother. Complications ensue when Princess Flavia, the king's cousin and betrothed, begins to notice a "personality change" in her fiancé. Written by Albert Sanchez Moreno <a.moreno@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most thrilling swordfight ever filmed... See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 September 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Gefangene von Zenda See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,250,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director John Cromwell was not happy with his cast. In memos to David O. Selznick he said that Fairbanks and Niven were "overindulged and lazy." Colman "never knows his lines. I don't know which one of them annoys me most. Also, both Colman and Carroll insist they have a 'bad side' to be avoided by the camera, but it's the same 'bad side.' Shooting them face-to-face is all but impossible." Viewing the film today, it's hard to imagine either of them with a "bad" side, so this is obviously an overstatement . See more »

Goofs

Princess Flavia gives Rassendyll a red rose in the garden. As it lies on a book a little while later, it is white. See more »

Quotes

Rudolph Rassendyll: My work here is done.
See more »

Connections

Version of The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) See more »

Soundtracks

Hail the Conquering Hero
(uncredited)
By George Frideric Handel
[Played at the "king's" entry into the cathedral]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A classic with class
21 February 2002 | by Bob-321See all my reviews

If anyone wants to see an excellent movie made before the banner cinematic year of 1939, this would be a film to watch. It could hardly have gone wrong, with David O. Selznick as producer and John Cromwell as director. And a superlative cast of popular stalwarts, mostly from Hollywood's British colony. Ronald Colman is his usual smooth and accomplished self in a dual role, King Rupert (of some fictitious country) and look-alike Englishman Rudolph Rassendyll, very distant cousins. The scenes in which he faces himself onscreen – called `trick photography' then – are remarkable for the period. Lovely Madeleine Carroll plays a princess, betrothed to the king. Her equal in elegance and beauty wasn't seen on the screen again until Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews. Many critics have praised Douglas Fairbanks, jr, as a likeable rogue. He's very good, in an easy role. My applause goes to the two stars. The film is a glamorous combination of romance, spectacle and adventure. Don't even dream of realism; there was too much realism in ordinary life during most of the Thirties. This is a grand escape to a time and place that never were. If I had to pick a favorite scene in the film, it would be the famous entrance of Colman and Carroll into the coronation ball. The shot opens on the couple, walking fast, arm in arm, directly toward us. The camera pulls back and back and BACK until the grand staircase of the palace and the entire ballroom, filled with people, are revealed. Visually and technically, this single fluid shot is a stunning achievement. It shows us the creative work that could be done at the time, by hugely talented artists, long before the advent of zoom lenses and computer graphics. Elegance and class are not hallmarks of most current movies. `The Prisoner of Zenda' (1937) is a stylish and very satisfying example – a symbol, perhaps – of what escapist entertainment can be. And of what it could and should be, now and then, even today.


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